Zimbabwe: Rowdy MPs Slammed

15 September 2018

Opposition parliamentarians who heckled and hurled insults at Chief Justice Luke Malaba and Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) chair Justice Priscilla Chigumba during the swearing-in of Speaker of the National Assembly Advocate Jacob Mudenda and his deputy Cde Tsitsi Gezi on Tuesday, have been slammed for disrespecting the Judiciary and exhibiting childish behaviour.

The politicians, who appeared unhappy with the recent unanimous Constitutional Court judgment that threw out MDC-Alliance leader Mr Nelson Chamisa's presidential petition, called the Chief Justice a "thief" among other obscenities. They also insulted Justice Chigumba, who is also a judge of the High Court. They broke into song and dance disrupting the Chief Justice who was performing his constitutional duty of presiding over the swearing-in ceremony.

Legal experts lambasted the unruly elements saying their behaviour was dishonourable. They said the MPs were wasting an opportunity to represent their constituencies and to discuss national issues. MDC-T vice president Mr Obert Gutu said the opposition parliamentarians in question must grow up and move away from childish antics.

"We should be able to distinguish robust, progressive and purposeful debate from childish and immature discourse," he said.

"When you are elected to be a legislator by the people, the expectation is that you must go to the house and debate serious and pertinent national issues in a mature and dignified manner. Booing and lampooning a whole Chief Justice of the Republic by those Parliamentarians, brought the house into disrepute.

"They should be thoroughly ashamed of their improper and unbecoming behaviour."

Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi said the judiciary was an important institution that deserves respect.

He described the conduct of the legislators as deplorable saying lawyers in the MDC should have restrained their colleagues from embarrassing the judiciary boss.

"We have institutions that should be respected and the judiciary is one of them," said Minister Ziyambi.

"The attack on the judiciary in such a manner is so deplorable and unwarranted. That is a sign of total disrespect that is not expected of honourable members of Parliament. Lawyers within the MDC should have discouraged their colleagues from embarrassing the Chief Justice."

Minister Ziyambi said the judgement they were complaining about was unanimous and attacking the Chief Justice as an individual was unfair.

"The decision was unanimous and there was no dissenting voice," he said.

"Why target an individual and then shout obscenities at the Chief Justice?"

Advocate Thembinkosi Magwaliba said the conduct was unacceptable in a democratic society.

"Parliament is the third arm of the State and it should accord respect to the judiciary, which is also one of the three arms of the State," he said.

"It does not matter if the MDC does not like the outcome of their electoral challenge. The Chief Justice heard the petition with eight other judges and if you call him a thief, you are attacking his person and that is unwarranted. It sets a very bad precedent."

Law Society of Zimbabwe president Mr Misheck Hogwe said the legal profession condemns such behaviour by politicians.

"As Law Society of Zimbabwe, we condemn in the strongest of terms such conduct by some of our MPs.

"When a litigant loses, it is common cause that accepting the outcome is not an easy thing, but that should not justify mocking our judges," he said.

Mr Hogwe said although Justice Chigumba was seconded to ZEC, she remained a High Court judge who deserves respect.

"People should appreciate that a judge is a judge whether acting as a chairperson of a commission or not," he said.

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